All Good Things Must Come To An End

Kevin O'Toole, former senator from the 40th Legislative District, advises current and future politicians to have the courage to surround yourself with strong staff that are willing to stand up and tell you when you are wrong. Otherwise, they risk becoming disconnected from reality.

Today, as I walk down the corridor that connects the Annex to the Statehouse – it will mark my last trip down these halls as a member of the New Jersey State Legislature; do not ask me what happens if there is a shutdown.

It is with great joy and humility that I retire this week from my “other day job.”

It is almost inconceivable that this son of an Irishman father and North Korean born mother entered the New Jersey Legislature some 22 years ago as an elected member (it was 30 years ago that I first stepped foot in our state’s capitol as an eager legislative aide to Assemblyman John V. Kelly).

I have held elective office continuously since 1989 and that all ends on July 1st. What a ride it has been – it has been a God given privilege to live this chosen life, I am one of the luckiest individuals to have lived his boyhood dream. Next to playing third base for the New York Yankees, I long wanted to be a lawyer and state legislator. To this day, I jump out of bed bursting with energy looking to “KILL IT” each and every day.

However, as I decided on January 15 of 2016, it is time to voluntarily leave and let the next generation take over.

Despite what others in my position have said in the past, it is not with mixed emotions that I move on. To the contrary, it is with great enthusiasm that I retire from elected office to spend my time volunteering on behalf of our State as one of six New Jersey Commissioners at the Port Authority and tending to my ever-growing law firm. At the same time, I fully expect to play a lot more golf with my incredibly supportive and loving wife, Bethany, and I anticipate a few road trips to see my two college age children, Kevin Jr, and Ryan Marie. I note that they were both born when I was serving my first tenure in the State Assembly (1997 & 1999) and this life is the only life they know. To my wife and two children–thank you for your never-ending love and support–you are my rock and my everything.

I do need to thank the few obvious people who have made this ride possible. I thank my office manager of 22 years, Renee DeCostello, for her ever-persistent manner in solving every constituent need – THANK YOU RENEE!

I need to also thank my entire staff for everything that they did, with special recognition to three Chiefs of Staff who have made me seem better, smarter, more politically edged than my reality – Matt Murray, Dominick Fiorilli and Al Barlas.  They have provided me an unquantifiable measure of support and service. I could have never survived in the political trenches without their amazing work.

To the entire Trenton staff: OLS, majority and minority staffs of both the Assembly and Senate, Governor’s staff, and the various departments’ staffs – thank you for all your quiet and professional work, you are the real reason Trenton works.

To my friends and supporters: I could not have made this journey without your support each and every step of the way – thank you!

To the constituents of Districts 40 & 21: I have tried to ably serve your needs and thank you for your trust and faith in me.

As far as leaving Trenton, I will not be straying too far. I have been asked and am delighted to give my modest counsel to a number of legislators – democrats and republicans.

I’d like to say to all current and future legislators some of the lessons I have learned over the years:

1) Understand that it is a rare gift and honor to be one of 120 state legislators – appreciate every second and serve humbly (when you start having doubt or think that you are really someone, take a moment and listen to Tim McGraw’s song “Humble and Kind”).

2) Take care of family first because kids age fast. Don’t miss a single game, play or concert. I always said that if I lose an election because I watched my kids grow up, so be it. Modestly, Senator Joe Kyrillos said it best—“Kevin, you created the illusion of being everywhere in the district while not missing a single family event better than anyone.” Joe, I wear that as a badge of honor.

3) Understand that the Governor’s office in New Jersey is the most powerful one in the country, respect the office and work with that person, regardless of political party.

4) Think and act BOLD.

5) Do the little things to help those less fortunate – you truly can help change one life at a time.

6) Work towards the greater good – sometimes compromise is necessary.

7) Do cross-over politics – work with the both parties to get real things accomplished.

8) Be an impact player – be relevant and don’t just take a check and wear a legislator pin.

9) Raise your own money and pull together your own organization.

10) Don’t ever betray your core principles.

11) Find your voice and be passionate.

12) Most of all: Don’t come here just to say “NO” – be a part of the solution, be relevant!

This building and these halls have been my “other office” for 22 years. For a kid from Cedar Grove, this has been an incredible journey and one that I will never soon forget.

Thank you to all of you who have been a part of this with me.

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